Tuesday 23 July 2019

Follow these simple steps to create the perfect scrum

Making ‘connections’ at the ankle, knee, hip, trunk, shoulders and hand-binding positions will allow all scrummagers to assess their strengths and weaknesses
Making ‘connections’ at the ankle, knee, hip, trunk, shoulders and hand-binding positions will allow all scrummagers to assess their strengths and weaknesses

Coach's Insight by Ambrose Conboy - elite scrum coach

In the words of Greg Feek at the National Scrummaging Program, 'let's make scrummaging a culture in Ireland again'.

Ever since the frustrations of England v Ireland on St Patrick's Day 2011 in Twickenham, Ireland's scrum has made major improvements. As the scrum is an opportunity to restart the game, it has also become a major tool of tactical dominance, often allowing for scoring and relieving penalties.

Feek's influence on the Irish scrum, through recent work with players like Nathan White, Jack McGrath, James Cronin and Marty Moore was a key component to Ireland's success in the Six Nations.

The debate between legal and illegal scrummaging and its overall interpretation is the greatest challenge for players, coaches and referees.

Creating a process using mini units is the key to your success.

The Checklist

Creating a checklist allows players and coaches to improve their scrummaging routines. Making 'connections' at the ankle, knee, hip, trunk, shoulders and hand-binding positions will allow all scrummagers to assess their strengths and weaknesses. Trusting in the process by creating a checklist is essential to critical analysis and a consistent, successful outcome.

The Hit

Winning 'The Hit' sets the tone. The basic component of any scrum is unity. The accordion effect of front-row, second-row and back row hitting as individual groups must be eliminated.

All eight players must make the hit at the same time therefore making a 'connection' through binding and body position. No foot movement is fundamental. Studies show that the back-row contribute 30pc of the scrums power so their connection is fundamental.

Back-rowers who 'Meercat' off the back of the scrum, focusing on the next phase, can be detrimental to a scrum's success.

Body positions

Body position is essential to generating power laterally so the scrum goes forward and not upward. Back position must be parallel with the ground and 120 degrees is optimum leg position to generate most power.

Crucially, all power from the scrum comes from the ground up and the ability to have good balance through both feet is essential for all players in the scrum. The key focus is to have all eight players with all 16 feet on the ground at the same time, which gives you the opportunity to compete more effectively.

Often the challenge for younger scrummagers is a tendency to work off their dominant foot. This can be helped by readjusting hip alignment inwards or outwards as necessary and working on hamstring and achilles flexibility.

Height is might

Controlling and changing the height of the scrum before the hit can allow you to dominate your opposite number. Changing the height during the scrum half feed will allow you to exert pressure on the opposition and affect the outcome.

Drill 1: 1 v 1 Scrummaging

Choose a location where there is a line so you can judge who has achieved dominance after the drill.

On the coach's call of Crouch, Pause, Set both players should go through the mental process of their position, engage and find a comfortable position with a leg angle of 120 degrees.

Players should hold their feet position (120 degrees) while trying to maintain their position with their back parallel to the ground sending the force laterally.

The key coaching point is that the player's feet may need to be adjusted after engagement to help to improve the force laterally.

Coaches should call 'Sink' - players will slowly close the distance between their chest and the ground while trying to keep their back parallel to the ground. This should be repeated 5 reps minimum. This allows technique to be taught under control with minimal pressure.


Coaches may call 'Sink and Surge' at any stage in the 5 reps and one player may challenge the other for dominance. This allows for control to be taught under pressure with a key focus on maintaining a strong body position.

The above drill can be adapted to create mini units:

Drill 2: 2 v 1 scrummaging (Hooker and loosehead v tighthead)

Drill 3: 3 v 3 scrummaging (Hooker, loosehead and second-row v Tighthead, second-row and back row)

Drill 4: 5 v 5 scrummaging (Two full front-rows and two second-rows)

Drill 5: 7 v 6 scrummaging (One full pack minus a No 8 v one full pack minus blindside and openside flankers.)

Eighty per cent of all scrummaging should be done in mini units to develop the technical ability of individuals. Technique allows your players to use their energies in more effective ways around the park. Scrummaging machines should be used only for timing of the hit.

Live scrums will assist the overall unity and hooker's effective channelling of the ball.

Irish Independent

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